By Doug Shields
The world is shitty place right now. We are subjected to a daily deluge of horrific stories from around the globe and we are constantly reminded we’re ‘just days’ away from a barbaric terrorist attack on the streets of our cities.
Recent events in Paris, Sydney and Syria have been an eye-opener for us all, a reminder there are amongst us some sick, twisted human beings who are hell bent on destroying the lives of innocent, law abiding citizens, and all in the name of a peace-loving religion.
Amidst the doom and gloom that surrounds us it’s easy to forget there are good people, really good, kind-hearted people, out there too.
I know this, because I have witnessed it first hand over the last two weeks.
In the summer journalist Amy Watts, a very dear friend of my wife Julia, discovered she had stage four colon cancer.
At the time she was living in the U.S working for the Mail Online.
She underwent six months of gruelling chemotherapy to shrink the tumours, which doctors hoped would mean they could surgically remove the cancer from her colon and liver, where the disease had spread.
The hope of being saved by surgery was the light at the end of Amy’s dark tunnel, but then the American specialist told Amy there was nothing more he could do for her.
Amy’s parents rang round experts in the field, and just before Christmas Amy flew home to the UK and sought a second opinion.
A doctor at Spire Hospital in Leeds said he could save Amy and was willing to operate.
It quickly emerged this was her only option – but the two ops would cost £70,000, and that’s without setting up a new home, recovery and getting back on her feet after moving back home.
Enter the power of love, friendship and crucially social media.
A month ago, led by one determined old friend, around 70 of Amy’s pals began throwing around the idea of trying to help raise the money with a campaign. Incredibly, some of them were unaware Amy was so poorly, so keen was she not to worry all her old mates back in the UK.
But when the sheer weight of numbers of people willing to muck in became overwhelming, she took a step back and let everyone get on with it.
Initial discussions involved the setting up of a website, but it needed a name, and a good one too – one that would strike a cord and deliver the right message.
Someone suggested ‘a hand to hold’, which was modified to urge people to ‘Hold Amy’s Hand’ – inspired by Amy’s love of Dr Who, and a quote from the cult show.
Apparently the doctor once said: ‘’There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive … wormhole refractors … You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.’’
Everyone quickly agreed Hold Amy’s Hand worked, and the campaign was up and running.
www.holdamyshand.com was up 48 hours later.
An @HoldAmysHand twitter account was set up alongside the #HoldAmysHand hashtag and as one of my business partner says, we all began ‘tweeting the shit out of it’.
Within minutes of the launch the hashtag began trending in London, thanks to around 225 of Amy’s friend and family who hit ‘tweet’ simultaneously.
An army of Amy’s former showbiz journo colleagues, and their A-list contacts were soon on board.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Simon Cowell, who has met and remembers Amy from her years on the tabloid showbiz circuit tweeted about the campaign.
— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) January 22, 2015
His call to action to his 11.3million followers worldwide quite literally sent the fundraising effort into orbit.
As if tweeting the #HoldAmysHand hashtag wasn’t enough, the X-Factor pantomime villain then donated a staggering £10,000 towards the fund.
Amy’s one-time employer Richard Desmond matched Cowell’s donation and before the ink was dry on Desmond’s cheque former Bros singer Matt Goss, whose mum died of cancer, was on the phone to London’s Dorchester Hotel.
He somehow managed to secure the Ballroom ‘as a favour’ in which to hold an ‘emergency gig’, with all donations going to Hold Amy’s Hand.
Other stars to wade in and help in one way or another were:
Crystal Palace FC
Naya Rivera Dorsey
I’m happy to say that as I write this, the fund has almost reached its target – around two weeks after it all kicked off.
And this is all down to the good people I mentioned earlier, a well thought out social media push – oh, and the bloke in the high-waisted trousers.
By the way, if anyone who donated is reading this, if you found a quid, two quid, a fiver, whatever … thank you.
You’ve given our Ames a fighting chance.